At first thought, an e-ink smartphone sounds like a terrible idea. Ugh, all that lag. But think about the light weight, low cost and insane battery life, and you can see why e-ink, the company behind the screen in Nooks and Kindles, is pushing its new prototype phone hard.
[We] were blown away by just how light it was, about how sharp text looked on its screen and how long it could last… Perhaps because it can use a smaller battery or because it has an older ARM processor – Charbonnier said it has a Qualcomm A5 chip – the reference design weighed a mere 80 grams and felt as light as paper in our hand… The device is designed to last at least a week on a charge and cost cost as little as 150 euros unsubsidized.
Sounds good, huh? Running an aged version of Android — 2.3! — it had a handful of apps, but that at least shows that an e-ink phone is possible. Of course, it would be a world of compromise; while battery life is a major draw, that’s not much use if the thing is riddled with so much lag that you want to stamp its little screen to smithereens:
Navigating between menus was painfully slow, and though the device supports multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom, it wasn’t always responsive. There was also significant lag when redrawing the screen, which is always a problem on E Ink screens but was particularly sluggish on this device.
But, hey, this is a proof of concept, not a finished product. E-ink’s alternative offering is along the lines of that Yota dual-screen phone: it’s contemplating offering replacement e-ink back covers for phones that could cost somewhere around $US50. That’s a neat idea, and swapping a second screen off and on to your phone as needs dictated actually sounds quite sensible. Would you be interested? [Laptop]